Cupcakes & Conversation with Erica Cornejo, Principal, Boston Ballet

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Cupcakes & Conversation with Erica Cornejo, Principal, Boston Ballet

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Erica Cornejo Photograph : Rosalie O'Connor

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?  

I always try to find something that motivates myself to start the week. It can be different things, from my beautiful family to a new choreography or ballet that I know I love doing. Having my typical Argentinian drink for breakfast called Mate or a beautiful sunny day. I can name you hundreds of things; I’m very good at finding inspiration in just very simple things to keep me going.

Why ballet?

Since I was 3 years old I had this beautiful feeling and desire of dancing. I remember when I was 4 years old there was a place in front of my kinder garden that use to have all kind of dances : ballet, Spanish, modern, and also sports. One day I saw through the window many girls taking ballet class and I told my mother that I wanted to do that (ballet!!)  My mother took me the next day and since then I haven’t stopped. I guess it was always in my blood.

What are you looking forward to dancing next year ?

Next year I have a lot of great dancing to do with the Boston Bballet : I have Études, and I’ve never danced the principal part before so I’m very exited for it. Fancy Free that I learned when I was in ABT but never got the opportunity to dance. Les Sylphides where I will do the Waltz, and for the second time I will do Bella Figura which is one of the most beautiful ballets that I have done from Kylian.

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?

There are many great artists around the world, but right now I don’t have any specific male dancer. I  always want to have the opportunity to dance with partners that share the same passion I have for ballet and are artists on stage. You know, the ones that give everything and make you feel every little movement as  real as it can be. I luckily had the opportunity to perform many times with this kind of wonderful partner. I always enjoy very much doing everything, but the ballets that have a lot of acting are the ones that I dream to do all the time.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?

I can say that I’m very lucky that I was able to dance already in many of the most important theatres around the world. Probably the moon could be a place that nobody will think of or maybe there are some other crazy like me, hehe.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?

I don’t have to do much. I put on ribbon, elastic and that’s it! I have a special order made for me by Gaynor Minden and they are very comfortable the way they are.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?

Usually on a regular day with no performances I start class at 9.45am until 11.15am and rehearsals will go from 11.35am until 6.30pm. When I start performing we do shows from Thursday to Sunday. Thursday I work from noon until 4.30 then the show is at 7.30pm. Saturday and Sunday  we do matinees and night shows so class will start around 10.30 am and then show at 1pm and 7.30 the other show. Also Gyrotonic is something I try to do whenever I can as part of my daily routine.

ballet dancer on pointe

Photograph : Gene Schiavone

What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?

I love, love eating. Usually people think that I don’t eat much but I do. I love eating very healthily and with my husband we always try to get a lot of organic stuff. My breakfast it is something I can never skip, I must have bread with organic butter and jelly with Mate (the Argentinian drink) coffee or tea.

For lunch depending on my rehearsals I will do something light, a salad or a sandwich and I always try to bring some snacks from home, a yogurt or fruit because if I don’t have much time to eat I can always get some energy from the snacks. For dinner I can have anything !

You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?

In my life I have met many well-known people from different countries. My family and friends are the ones that I consider famous people for me. I love them and I always have the greatest time.

There are so many friends that I have all over the world that I haven’t seen in a long time and they all are doing amazing careers. I will love to share a great dinner with them. I don’t think I will feel comfortable having dinner with people that I just know from a magazine, book or TV.

What would surprise people about you ?

I don’t really  know. Maybe that I have a few injuries that were and still are sometime very painful but I never got any kind of injection for pain, I don’t take painkillers and never did surgery. I maintain my injury under control with : a series of exercises, breathing, positivism and rest. Hopefully I will be able to do this until I stop dancing.

ballet dancer

Erica Cornejo

Who inspired you to dance ?

My lovely family and lots of great people that I’ve met through my career. They are artists in different ways and I have learned so much from them and I’m still doing it.

What is your best piece of advice ?

Faith, Love, Perseverance in everything you do.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?

When I have to perform I like to be at the theatre at least 3 hours before the show. I spend a lot of time doing my makeup and my hair. Depending on the ballet I have to perform that day the makeup and hair will be a little different. Then I always do a warm-up and 30 minutes before the show I like to put my costume my pointe shoes or whatever shoes I get to wear. I always like to walk or do things on stage before I start the show just to feel the floor, after that I’m ready to have fun on stage.

How do you deal with the stress of performing ?

Usually I don’t get nerves when I’m performing but I can get very anxious. More than stressed I get very tired because most of the time I have a very hard schedule of performances so I try to get massages and acupuncture to get rid of any kind of pain, stress and release the anxiety.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?

Juliet, it has been one of the roles that I love the most doing. I feel that it really tested me on my acting side. It has so many details of mime that you have to put within the music, choreography and all the other character roles in the ballet. Everyone involved has to be very clear and real with everything they do, if not it is very hard to get into it, especially in this kind of ballet. It is so romantic, passionate and dramatic  that you have to be able to balance your emotions and start building little by little your character.

Of course there are a lot of ballets that need to have this, but from all the things I have danced, this one is the one that every time a dance I have to prepare myself emotionally more than others.

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?

I will paint my upper body and have a long skirt. Easy and free to move.

What do you look for in a dance partner ?

Good skill as partner, chemistry, passion and artistry. Having a partner with these characteristics  will make a performance not just very good but special.

What is your favourite quote ?

Don’t worry everything is going to be fine.

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?

My jump it is one of my strongest “Signature steps.”

A phrase I use far too often is … ?

Have fun, enjoy it you will be great!

ballet dancer jete

Photograph : Gene Schiavone

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?

I have so many…..

One I can name was when I did one of the stepsisters in James Kudelka’s Cinderella with ABT at the Metropolitan Opera House, the dancers on stage were laughing so much because of what I was doing and the audience went crazy. The other moment was when I did my last performance of Swan Lake’s Pas de Trois with ABT. That was a part that I was well known for. I danced with my amazing brother Herman Cornejo and gorgeous Xiomara Reyes; it was very special. The audience new it was my last dance and I got to bow by myself; I cried. Also another time I can mention was  when I danced with my husband Carlos Molina his version of Spartacus pas de deux at The Wang Center Theatre with Boston Ballet. It was very emotional, we both love dancing this pas de deux and the audience loved it too. Anyway these are just a few of many incredible times on stage.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?

If I tell, it will not be a secret .

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?

I hope dancing a lot , enjoying my family and my life as I do now.

What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?

I don’t really like to plan my future too much; I know what I want. I  learned to go day by day trying to enjoy the present as much as I can. Many times in my life things happened that I  wasn’t sure about for different reasons : was the next step going to be the best for me ? But every day things changed, giving me some kind of sign that make my moves easy to take. That is why I don’t plan; you never know how is going to be tomorrow.

One of the things that I have been doing  for sometime is coaching, and I really like doing this a lot, so I guess that will be something I can see myself doing but who knows maybe in a few years I change my mind.

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